The Private Prison Business Is Booming Despite Reform Efforts

(Photo: Prison Fence via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)

Despite political momentum around prison and sentencing reforms, 2015 was another good year for the private prison business, thanks to “long-term customer relationships” and “strong and predictable occupancy rates,” as the private prison firm GEO Group puts it.

In annual reports recently submitted to federal regulators, GEO Group and another massive private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), reported $139 million and $222 million in profits, respectively, over the past year. That translates to profit margins of $2,135 and $3,356 per individual prisoner held in the facilities run by the companies, according to the watchdog group In the Public Interest.

The private prison business is booming despite well-documented problems and even alleged human rights abuses, including several deaths in recent years at private immigrant jails with inadequate medical care. Both GEO Group and CCA have enjoyed steady increases in annual revenue over the past 15 years, and the companies reported a combined $3.6 billion in revenue during 2015 alone.

CCA and GEO Group are the largest private prison firms in the United States, and their annual reports offer an Orwellian glimpse into how corporations build business models around the caging of human beings.

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